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tv   MSNBC News Live  MSNBC  March 20, 2011 8:00am-9:00am EDT

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d some wonderful memories. the average employee is with me over 20 years. i have busboys that are with me 30 years. when i tell them that i'm givinghem a trip, they just can't believe it. giving back to my employees makes me feel great. and when my employees are happy, my customers are happy. how can the gold card help serve your business? booming is taking care of your business by taking care of your employees. breaking news overnight. u.s. and allied forces bomb libyan targets as "operation odyssey dawn" is under way. and moments ago, we got new word on the success of the campaign so far. and new word from libya's leader this morning as well, as antiaircraft fire from gadhafi forces, they lit up the skies of tripoli throughout the night there. the day's other big story, fallout from the japanese quake even a week after the tsunami. this new and frightening video
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is surfacing. the very latest from there in moments. good morning, everyone, i'm alex witt. welcome to "msnbc sunday." we begin with breaking news. new word from the top u.s. military chief just moments ago. admiral mike mullen tells nbc news a no-fly zone is in effect in libya this morning after american and european forces rained down missiles on libya's defenses. the u.s. and britain unleashed 114 tomahawk cruise missiles targeting libyan surface-to-air sites as well as radar and communications centers. three american b-2 stealth bombers also dropped more than 40 bombs on libyan defenses. now, the goal of these first strikes is to pave the way for air patrols which will enforce the no-fly zone and protect civilians from moammar gadhafi's forces. hours before the allied attacks, pro-gadhafi forces stormed the rebel stronghold of benghazi, killing 27 people, according to one doctor. president obama said the international community had to
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protect the libyan citizens. >> want the american people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it's not a choice that i make lightly, but we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy. make no mistake, today we are part of a broad coalition, we are answering the calls of a threatened people, and we are acting in the interests of the united states and the world. >> meanwhile, this morning gadhafi spoke on libyan television. just his voice could be heard behind the image of a fist crushing a plane with "usa" written across it. gadhafi said the allied attacks amounted to terrorism, and libya is preparing for a long war. the embattled leader also announced he has opened weapons depots for civilians to arm themselves. nbc's keir simmons is live for us in london. with a good morning to you, keir what do we know about the status of the allied strike right now? >> reporter: good morning, alex. we know that, as you say, more
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than 100 missiles were fired at 20 coastal targets. now, just to fill you in, libyan television are claiming that 48 people died in these attacks and 150 injured. clearly, we have to treat that with some degree of skepticism, although previous experience -- for example, in the former yugoslavia -- suggests that there will be some civilian casualties as a result of these attacks, and they do appear to have been effective, according to the coalition forces. their aim, clearly, was to take down libya's ability to attack their planes in the sky so that those planes can then police this no-fly zone and prevent gadhafi from attacking his own people in benghazi, and they think that's what they are achieving. and what will happen now is that a number of countries will work, if you like, in rotation, and the french, know last night, sent 20 planes out to begin this process. but different nationalities are likely to take over, if you like, that process of policing the area and freezing this
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attack by gadhafi on his own people, and it does appear that they've managed to do that. in fact, the people of benghazi are saying that gadhafi's tanks were, they say, literally minutes away from descending on them, if you like, when this strike began. so, frankly, from the point of view of those people, those rebels in benghazi, from the point of view of the coalition, it didn't happen too soon. >> keir, so, when you talk about what the french jets did yesterday, among the things they did, they attacked the military vehicles, those things on the ground that you're talking about. when you say that there's going to be a rotation of sorts, does that mean that french jets will not be in the air today again? and if not, do we know which nation is sending up air power? >> reporter: we don't know yet. some nations are yet to declare their involvement. and the united states last night were very careful to say we're going to allow nations, particularly arab nations to declare when they are involved and how they are involved.
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but one crucial comment today, i think. the turkish prime minister calling on gadhafi to give up power and for an immediate end to violence. he was asked whether or not gadhafi should go, and he said he's already gone beyond that period and he is contradicting himself. "he should hand his country over to a people with legitimacy." now, clearly, turkey is a member of nato, but i think that's a crucial comment coming from the turkish prime minister, because lots of discussion overnight about what these strikes are for and what the aim is. the clear indifferenear inferen the turkish prime minister is saying there, is to unseat gadhafi. >> unseat gadhafi. is it clear yet, keir, what the u.s. role is going to be? i mean, we talked about a support status. do we know whether or not the united states will be sending in jets to launch attacks specifically within tripoli and other places?
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>> reporter: it seems unlikely. what we do know is that the united states has been in command of this operation, but they are saying at the same time, and have been saying at the same time, that they plan to hand over that command to another member of the coalition, if you like. politically, alex, this is a crucial question because of the history involved and the importance of keeping the arab nations, in particular, on board. it was seen as crucial that this was seen as a strike, as a number of strikes led by a coalition of partners. and i think that's one of the reasons, i think, why you saw the french go in first and why you saw the french prime minister declare that this was happening initially, because you know, the message they want to send, and the prime minister of britain said it clearly yesterday, this is not iraq. this is a different thing. this is, they say, a man who is killing his own people, and we are acting in the name of those people, of those rebels in benghazi. >> all right.
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nbc's keir simmons in london. i'll speak with you throughout this day. keir, thank you. also this morning, new word from the u.s.'s top military officer. joint chiefs of staff chair mike mullen says the u.s. and allied forces have effectively established this no-fly zone over libya. nbc chief pentagon correspondent jim miklaszewski is joining me now live from d.c. with more on this. mick, with a good morning, what else did mike mullen say? >> reporter: well, you know, after that, the question to him was is the u.s. military the coalition military operation aimed at ousting moammar gadhafi? he said, no, that's not the intent. but when you hear what else the u.s. military and the coalition are doing, it seems as if that, indeed, is at least the political intent, if not the military's. overnight, there was substantially more u.s. firepower aimed at moammar gadhafi's forces with three b-2 stealth bombers flying all the way from whiteman air force base in missouri to libya to drop 40
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bombs on the libyan air force military air strips. in addition, we're told that u.s. air force f-15s and f-16s flying out of significananella force on sicily, attacked ground forces in and around benghazi. when asked how that applies to enforcing a no-fly zone, u.s. military officials said any movement of libyan military forces presents a potential threat to the libyan leader, moammar gadhafi. so, although the u.s. military mandate under the u.n. resolution, as military officials tell me, to number one, establish and enforce a no-fly zone, and number two, protect innocent libyan civilians. it's clear that if, ultimately, the military forces destroy or eviscerate moammar gadhafi's military, that it would seem, anyway, that it wouldn't be too
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long after that that he'd probably be forced out or forced to step down from power. >> mick, do we know how long these plans have been in the making? and if we don't know specifically, given your vast knowledge there of the pentagon, how long does it take to put an operation like this together? it's not just u.s.-directed. i mean, there are all these different partners. how tough is that logistically to get together? >> reporter: you know, the u.s. military and the pentagon are constantly making contingency plans to attack just about everybody in the world, so looking at this plan and taking out his air defense systems, this was probably something they dusted off pretty rapidly and applied it within a matter of days, alex. >> okay. jim miklaszewski there, thank you very much, from washington, d.c. well, as mick said, the senior u.s. defense official tells nbc american b-2 stealth bombers have conducted missions in
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libya. those planes have blasted a libyan air defense with more than 40 bombs. i'm joined by msnbc military analyst, retired army colonel jack jacobs. good morning, colonel. >> good morning, alex. >> what do we know of these b-2 bombers, what's the goal of the missions and could our pilots be at risk of enemy fire? >> you're always at risk any time you're over a battle area, you're at risk. but these are very sophisticated aircraft. you see how they're shaped. they do not reflect radar beams. instead, their skin absorbs them. and they're more or less invisible to most radar ability to detect them. and as a result, they're very difficult to knock down. you can't even see them, even with radar. in addition, they carry the kinds of weapons that have long range. that is, conventional bombs rigged with fins and the ability to glide over 30 miles, what we used to call jdans of bombs that
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can get within inches of their aiming points. so, yes, they're always at risk, but they standoff and they're very, very accurate and they're very difficult to acquire. >> colonel, given that admiral mike mullen has said we have effectively created this no-fly zone, this all happened in less than 24 hours. are you surprised with the speed with which they were able to do this? >> no, not at all. i think mick has been around a long time, and particularly in the pentagon, got it in one. we have lots of plans that have to be certified back to secretary of defense each year by the combatant commander that they have been looked over and adjusted properly. we have lots of plans to do lots of different things and all we have to do is dust them off, make sure that the troops are ready to go, and we get them going. >> okay. colonel jack jacobs. we'll be speaking with you throughout this morning. >> i'll see you later. >> thank you. president obama continues his trip through latin america today, but he's keeping a close eye on the events unfolding half a world away. he stuck to a tight schedule,
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building relations with brazilian president la russa and talking about why this operation is a necessary step for america. >> this is not an outcome that the united states or any of our partners sought. we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of libya and uphold the mandate of the international community. >> nbc white house correspondent savannah guthrie is live in rio de janeiro this morning. savannah, with a good morning to you, the president may physically be down there, but he's certainly keeping a close watch over the libyan situation in washington. we know secretary clinton was working very closely with french president sarkozy and other leaders. how often is president obama checking in and getting briefed? >> reporter: well, if yesterday is any example, it's very, very frequent. in fact, he was briefed on air force one on the way to brasilia, brazil. in between these meetings with the brazilian leader, he was
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checking in with his team, they were convening conference calls with admiral mullen and secretary clinton, and the president joined in on that. in between meetings, he gave guidance on what statement he wanted to give, when he later came before the cameras and said he had authorized this military action. officials here were asked, do you think you should cut this trip short given what's happening in libya, and they're saying it's not necessary because the president is able to keep tabs on everything. so, he'll get his intelligence briefing here in the morning. he's traveling with top national security aides, including the national security adviser, and they are keeping a very close eye on things. >> savannah, i have yet to read anywhere a time frame, an end game for this operation. are you getting any indication from senior staffers or the president about that angle of things, how long we expect this to take? >> reporter: no, i think you put your finger on the biggest issue here, which is, while aides want to emphasize how limited in scope this mission is, i.e., to protect civilians from gadhafi, it's very open-ended as long as
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gadhafi stays in power. i mean, there's a strong desire and hope on the part of the allies that gadhafi will feel the pressure, not only from the military action, but all of the international sanctions that have already been brought to bear, some of the financial burdens that have been put upon him -- they're hoping he'll feel the squeeze and step down from power. on the other hand, the allies have promised that he will be prosecuted as a war criminal. so in some ways, he's got every incentive to stay and fight to the last. so, i think the question you raise is a very good one, how long will the allies commit to enforcing this no-fly zone to protect civilians from gadhafi? if he stays in power, the civilians will need that protection for a long time. >> all right. nbc's savannah guthrie in rio de janeiro, many thanks. from there now to japan, and new this morning, an incredible rescue there more than a week after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. police say a 16-year-old boy and his 80-year-old grandmother have been rescued nine days after the quake. they say the two were found alive amid the rubble in the devastated miyagi prefecture and
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were air-lifted out by helicopter. meanwhile, officials are backing away from plans to vent more radioactive gas into the air from one of the damaged nuclear reactors, saying the pressure inside is still high but stable. also today, japan's top government spokesperson says the nuclear plant will have to eventually be closed. an amazing video just released from the japanese coast guard. look at this. it shows the giant tsunami rolling toward the northeast coast of japan. shortly after that massive 9.0 earthquake on march 11th. that tremendous wave, several feet above the bow of the ship. the ship was about 30 miles out to sea when it encountered that tsunami. libyan leader moammar gadhafi promising a long war against u.s. and allied forces. we have a live report from tripoli, next. and will president obama take a political hit from those on the left for engaging in this fight? is the public tired of war? this is "msnbc sunday."
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breaking news right now on msnbc. a no-fly zone is effectively in place right now in libya. that is what the top u.s. military officer tells nbc news this morning. a barrage of overnight bombings targeted libya's air defenses, including surface-to-air missiles. nbc's jim maceda's in libya's capital of tripoli for us. jim, with a good morning, what's it like on the ground there this morning? >> reporter: good morning, alex. well, as military experts assessed just how much those cruise missiles and those stealth bombs have actually hurt the libyan dictator, he's making it clear that he's going absolutely nowhere. u.s. cruise missiles fired toward libya's mediterranean coast, and "operation odyssey dawn" was under way.
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the targets, moammar gadhafi's air defense, sophisticated missiles and radar systems that could knock out nato planes enforcing a no-fly zone over libya. according to the pentagon, at least 20 such sites were hit in the first wave of attacks, many near the capital of tripoli. where tracer and antiaircraft fire sprayed the night sky, defending against the sounds of planes and explosions. [ beeping ] by daylight, tripoli was calm, but libya tv showed images of some of the 48 dead and at least 150 wounded, casualties, it said, from the air strikes. "there were civilians in the area. civilians were injured," said this wounded man. today, u.s. and coalition officials will assess the damage done to gadhafi's air defenses, as french, british, canadian, and eventually, arab fighter jets put muscle behind the warning to gadhafi that he can no longer use warplanes or tanks
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to attack his own people. >> this is just the first phase of what will likely be a multiphased military operation designed to enforce the united nations resolution and deny the libyan regime the ability to use force against its own people. >> reporter: but so far, there is no indication that gadhafi is backing down. overnight, thousands of his supporters packed his palace, becoming human shields to protect him. he broadcast a fiery message to his people and to the west, swearing to fight every inch. "we must arm the masses with all types of weapons to defend the independen independence, unity and honor of libya," he warned. gadhafi is digging in, and some military analysts say there's no guarantee that air strikes or a no-fly zone will be enough to dig him out. and alex, those analysts say that gadhafi has survived the past 40-plus years, turning setback after setback to his advantage, and that raises the question, will this "operation
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odyssey dawn" become the latest example? also, i need to add that on every front today, whether it's misrata or benghazi or elsewhere, no reports of fighting at all, and that may be a good sign that this no-fly zone is already having an effect, or it could be simply gadhafi waiting for the dust to settle before making his next surprise move. alex? >> jim, look, there will be those who welcome military intervention from the united states and other countries around the world and those who don't. did you get a sense in tripoli where it leans, which direction? >> reporter: in terms of reaction to us as americans or europeans? >> yes. >> reporter: so far, it's a little -- it's early days to actually tell. i think in terms of our -- the reaction that we get, the interaction that we have with people now since we've been locked down on this hotel for two or three days has been with our minders, with our handlers, and they have become a bit
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breaking news out of libya this morning. after pounding libyan defenses with more than 110 cruise missiles, the top u.s. military chief says a no-fly zone is effectively in place. admiral mike mullen also tells nbc news he has seen no reports of civilian casualties from the strikes. meanwhile, libyan state tv is saying 48 people were killed. we'll have more on libya in just moments. meantime, japanese officials are backing away from plans to vent more radioactive gas into the air from one of those damaged nuclear reactors. tokyo electric power company said pressure is still high at the unit 3 reactor in fukushima, but it is also stabilized. let's go live now to tokyo and nbc's robert bazell. bob, a good morning, the other big news from japan today, police say two people have been rescued nine days after this quake and tsunami. what do you hear about that? >> reporter: well, alex, it really is amazing. in one of the towns that was really hit hard by the earthquake, police saw a 16-year-old boy waving weakly from the roof of his house, and they went over to him, of
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course, and he said that his 80-year-old grandmother was stuck inside. she was, indeed. she was so stuck, they had to bring in heavy equipment to get her out, but they're both fine. two stories among a lot of horrible death and destruction up there. meanwhile, efforts continue to get those crippled nuclear power plants under control. fire trucks were able to get within 60 feet of reactor 3 and shoot 1,500 tons of water at it. that should be enough to fill the water tank, which should look like this, covering spent fuel rods that have been exposed and emitting radiation. if the water hit its mark, then the tank does not have a major leak. >> translator: we think that we have succeeded in capturing a certain amount of water injection into the number 3 reactor, and it has now stabilized the situation. >> reporter: reactors 1 and 2 are now hooked to electricity. engineers will soon try to get the pumps running again to cool those reactors. at reactors 5 and 6, diesel-powered generators have
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the water circulating again, and the temperature is dropping. >> there is a slight chance that one of these reactor vessels will have a late failure, not very likely, because the fuel is getting cooler all the time, and they seem to have a way of getting water into these reactor cores. if they keep on doing that, they should be okay. it's a fragile situation. there's a potential for a mistake. >> reporter: but damage has already been done. the contaminated milk came from farms in fukushima prefecture, about 19 miles from the troubled reactors. radiation levels were five times higher than those considered safe. the spinach was found on farms in the maraki prefecture to the south. radiation was up to seven times higher than those deemed safe. >> most of the levels are set extremely low to begin with, so five times higher than the legal limit still would not be enough, i don't think, to cause a discernible health effect. >> reporter: to put it in
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perspective, the government said drinking a glass of contaminated milk every day for a year would expose a person to as much radiation as one ct scan. to block the effects of the contaminated food, japanese authorities recommended this week that people leaving fukushima take potassium iodine tablets. talking yesterday, alex, you and i were talking about contaminated water as well, and we've got some numbers on that. there is a slight increase of radiation in the water here in tokyo and at other places, but it is so slight that it's almost negligible. the actual numbers are so tiny. and on top of that, all of the water in japan is still much below what would be considered safe in the united states. so, groundwater contamination, drinking water contamination, fortunately, is a non issue at this point. alex? >> well, that is very good news. okay.
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nbc's robert bazell. bob, thank you. we'll have more on our top story, the u.s. and european nations strike libya with air strikes and dozens of tomahawk cruise missiles. how long will this action last? the markets never stop moving. of course, neither do i. solution: td ameritrade mobile. i can enter trades. on the run. even futures and forex. complex options? done. the market shifts... i get an alert. thank you. live streaming audio. advanced charts. look at that. all right here. wherever "here" happens to be. mobile trading from td ameritrade. number one in online equity trades. announcer: trade commission-free for 30 days, plus get up to $500 when you open an account.
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we have breaking news at 33 past the half hour here on msnbc. i'm alex witt. new video today of the u.s.'s first cruise missiles fired on libya. u.s. and british ships pounded libya with precision missiles saturday. officials say b-2 bombers dropped more than 40 bombs on libya, targeted at air defense systems. meanwhile, a top u.s. military officer says the potential outcome of this is colonel moammar gadhafi remaining in power. joining me now, analyst and retired general barry mccaffrey. good morning. >> good morning, alex. >> the goal was to hit air and defense missile systems. can you break it down in layman's terms? what exactly are those and what impact does taking them out have on colonel gadhafi? >> i think step number one,
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clearly, was to create a more benign environment so united kingdom, french and u.s. aircraft can operate safely in libyan air space. i think they've probably done that fairly effectively with a massive tomahawk strike, mostly out of the u.s. navy, but also out of british submarine. but alex, a very encouraging change overnight was the next phase of this operation was significant employment of u.s. air force power. so, the b-2 bombers are really a terror weapon that will cause the libyan military to think carefully about staying aligned with gadhafi. we're also going after their tanks and artillery around tripoli, misrata and also benghazi with u.s. air force f-16s and f-15s. so, i think we're now going to make a difference. the air cap area nonsensical. this is very good news. >> okay. general, if the libyan military stops aligning itself with colonel gadhafi, what happens?
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is he then out? >> well, of course, his power's based on his own tribe and upon the control of two very important brigades, one commanded by his son. they have pretty modern equipment comparatively speaking, and they're organized and disciplined. that's been his primary tool, along with his intelligence service and his police. i think gadhafi's still got the initiative. he's got a lot of options left to him. the most obvious one is diplomatically to try to fall back and say i'm going to comply with the u.n. resolution, leaving himself in power. the other one is to intensify the campaign, get his armor out of the open desert and get inside benghazi and these other besieged cities. we'll have to see what he's going to do. >> okay. there is some question, though, sir, over whether the goal is to weaken gadhafi or get rid of him completely. now, based on the military action you're seeing, what do you think the military objective is? >> well, i think there's no
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question that publicly, our rhetoric says we're merely complying the u.n. resolution, which was two-fold, air cap doesn't make any difference to gadhafi, and the second was to protect civilians from impending attack. we're going to take the impending attack on civilians, i'm sure, as liberally as we can to try and negate to some extent this overwhelming firepower advantage he has on the ground over the rebels. we haven't articulated getting gadhafi out of office as our primary purpose. >> okay. you talk about the ground. that's exactly where i want to go. was it a mistake to lay all our cards on the table by saying we're going to do whatever it takes except send ground troops? i mean, doesn't that just tell gadhafi how far we're willing to go? >> sure. i think, you know, from a military perspective, it's always a mistake to publicly articulate the limits to which you're willing to go. the president had to speak u.s. domestic opinion. libyans don't represent any
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national security threat to the united states. he was trying, i'm sure, to take a card off the table and preserve the tiny support he's getting out of the arab world. we're not seeing saudi or egyptian aircraft in this attack yet. so, the president's walking a fine line, but i think your point's a good one. look, the bottom line is, never ratchet up u.s. military power. go after him from step one and try and stun them into compliance and then use diplomacy following that. we're doing it the opposite. >> okay. general barry mccaffrey, see you again shortly. thank you. >> good to be with you, alex. >> president obama reiterated that the u.s. is acting alongside a coalition of forces and also stressed the operation will not involve u.s. boots on the ground. joining me now, former democratic congressman from pennsylvania, joe sestak, who rose to the rank of vice admiral in the navy during his naval career. good morning to you, sir. good to see you. >> good to be with you, alex. >> your reaction to the military engagement is?
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>> it's a success. there was never any doubt that we would be effective, but the question i've always had about this operation is what's next and to what end? look, my time on the national security council as director of defense policy during bosnia and other moments of time is what is the end game? and i don't think that question has been a priority yet. and after two wars in two muslim countries where we didn't know what's next, i think that's my concern. what are we going to do once we have fairly easily established this no-fly zone and stopped some of the tank movements? and that's my overarching concern. >> that is my concern as well, as women well as one that might precede that, which is humanitarian mission, sir, versus defending the interests of national security. where is the tipping point in a situation like this to send in u.s. military intervention?
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>> i think that there are always three national interests we have. one is vital, that those do with our own survival. this is not one of those. we also have fairly important interests, and that's why we intervened in bosnia. it didn't have to do with an immediate impact upon us, but it affected the character of europe, which is an interest of ours. we used military force to take care of those two objectives. this is really more of a humanitarian one, where we use forces to establish conditions by which we can influence a decisionmaker, gadhafi. the issue here, however, is for well over a quarter of a century, we've tried to influence this very strange individual. we've put financial sanctions, we've attacked his tents, we've had embargoes, and we've never really been successful. we are using military force to set up a condition to influence him. i don't think anybody has been able to discern if this is going to be successful.
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and that is -- once you're in there, despite what anyone says, we're going to own this, because we're the only force in this world that can continue to give the conditions of military backbone to keep a cover over things, so eventually, he doesn't then move forward. and with two wars going on, i'm not sure we've done this right. >> so, then, representative sestak, if we've been trying to deal with this man for a quarter of a century and influence him, is our state admission of just taking out air defenses, establishing a no-fly zone, is that effective enough? >> i don't think -- first, i hope it is. i truly hope this commander in chief -- and having been at the national security council, these decisions are so difficult. i hope this is successful. but even as the united states chief of staff of the air force said, this would be effective, but it's not going to be enough.
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and so, what is enough? and we've stepped, i think, into this, almost being pulled into it at times by france and britain and by an arab league. but again, as you saw, we're the ones who are putting our resources on the line the most, and i do believe that there are times to intervene humanitarian aid. for example, rwanda. we should have helped there. at times i thought we started somalia well. but again, in somalia, as you remember, we changed the mission. we didn't think through what's next. and we changed the mission and then we had a catastrophe there. i don't think we've gone through this. and so, i don't rule out doing humanitarian missions, but this is an individual that i don't think we can with any certainty, with two wars going on, believe that we're not going to still be there for some long period of time. >> do you think this could be a out of the frying pan into the fire kind of situation in terms of who could replace gadhafi, if it comes to that, and could this
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coalition then be on the hook for nation-building? >> i think that while it is a possibility, the one concern, and you bring it up very well here, is we don't know who these rebels really are. and so, we're supporting a political end game that we don't know what's going to come out of it. and without knowing that, we could end up with a pretty bad cast of characters. second, we could end up with a lot of refugee fallout. my opinion is, the reason we see the president of france intent on leading this is they've already seen so many refugees already going into tunisia, into italy and next into france, and there are reports that's one of the reasons they are concerned about this. look, there are other things i thought we might have done early on -- an immediate, strong naval blockade, immediate jamming of the state systems. but at times, i felt how we got
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into this was almost with a bit of indecision rather than what i believe the united states does best, is exert the leadership of what is in our interests and then go down that path, rather than being pulled to it and not knowing what the next step might be after we've done a military intervention. who had any doubt we would be successful on that? but this is really about influencing some bizarre man, and i'm very concerned about it afterwards. i hope we're successful, but i don't know. >> earlier this week, defense secretary robert gates was quite resip rouse in his opposition to military intervention. how often does that happen, that the pentagon is pulled into military action with the defense secretary saying shortly beforehand, don't want to go there? >> probably not that often. and great respect everyone has for secretary gates. there are others that believe very much that -- and i worked with some of them during the
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clinton administration, have great respect for them -- that this -- a failure to go in and help, where it's so close, and ease an appearance to do so harkens back to what we didn't do, for example in rwanda. i don't think we should be looking in the rearview mirror, however, and those concerns of t that the secretary of defense raised i also had. and i conducted no-fly zones as commander of the battle group over iraq. and these -- after a number of years of having done this, after the first gulf war, it takes a lot of continuation of effort, and i think he was rightly concerned about the stretch in our national security fabric from two wars already and trying to do other things around the world. >> all right. former pennsylvania representative joe sestak. very good to see you. thank you so much. >> nice to be with you, alex. >> more on the situation at that nuclear plant in japan. are there signs that things are moving in a positive direction? hot waffles...
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new this morning, a taiwanese official says radiation has been detected on fava beans imported from japan. the official adds the amount is too small to harm humans, but it is the first case of radiation found on japanese imports since the nuclear crisis began at the fukushima plant. and the announcement comes just a day after japanese officials say they detected radiation in spinach and milk produced near that plant. meanwhile, the operator of the damaged nuclear plant has called off attempts to ventilate gas from one of the reactors. tokyo electric power says the radiation level is high but stable. joining us now is jim sweitzer, director of radiological management at purdue university. good morning.
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how are you? >> good, how are you? >> i'm good, sir. officials say the pressure inside nuclear plant 3 is high but stabilized. what do you make of that? and is it a positive sign, and if so, how positive? >> well, alex, i'm not a nuclear engineer, but to me, any time they can prevent a release of radioactive material to the environment, that's a very good sign, so i'm encouraged by that. >> okay, generally speaking, what's your assessment of how much radiation has been released into the atmosphere overall and the level of danger there? >> well, i think a significant amount has been released to the environment. the good news is that the winds have carried a lot of that away, so that's good news for the japanese people and good that radioactive material has not been allowed to deposit on the lands and have individuals intake that into their bodies. >> okay. the japanese government now saying the fukushima plant is going to have to close eventually. first off, do you think there's at any point a realistic chance
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of that plant reopening and being productive on any level before it closes? >> it doesn't sound like there's a chance that that will happen. there's certainly just been a great amount of damage, and it will take many, many years, as we've seen in the case of three mile island, before we can even go into that area and assess it in a logical and, i guess, manner that will determine what we can do with that. so, certainly, it's very, very doubtful that in the very near term there would be any productive activities there. >> some quarter century later, sir, chernobyl is still a vast wasteland. is there anything to suggest japan's going to have to close off this section of japan like it happened with chernobyl? >> alex, there's certainly the possibility that very local areas, perhaps part of the exclusion areas, could be restricted for some period of
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time. certainly, there's the ability much of that radioactive material that has deposited on the land or the earth, some of that could be removed. you could scrape that off and deposit that in a holding area or a waste area, and that area could eventually be reinhabited. >> okay. jim schweitzer, good to talk with you. we'll talk with you again. thank you. >> thank you. what the military action in libya means for the president's political future. will this alienate his base? we'll talk about it on "msnbc sunday."
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bombings of gadhafi forces are under way, but the colonel is refusing to go quietly. in an audio address this morning on libyan state tv, he promised a long war. today, coalition forces bombed an airfield and attacked libyan tactical aircraft. meanwhile, with the u.s. now involved in a conflict in a third muslim country, president obama is stressing that this will not be a u.s.-led operation, and he's ruling out
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u.s. ground troops joining the fight. but is there still potential political fallout? christina bell antonio with "cq roll call" joins me now from washington. good morning. >> good morning, alex. >> the goal is to finish the job in days, not weeks, as we aim to destroy gadhafi's defenses, but there are thoughts that ga idea offo could resort to attacks of terrorism. what political price may the president pay mere? >> you're already seeing this from congress. they've gone home for a recess, but you've had comments from a conservative from utah to dennis kucinich from ohio, basically saying the president should have consulted with congress, that congress needed to have some sort of say here. i think you'll continue to hear that over the next few weeks. >> john brennan, top white house counterterrorism official says terrorist elements like al qaeda may try to take advantage of this situation. what would that mean for the
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administration if this already tense situation escalates? >> sure. well, that's sort of the worst nightmare scenario, and i think that's why the administration has been very careful in the way that they talk about this, the way that they have definitely said, you know, we are supporting the u.n. on this, you are trying to make it not a united states operation here, but they are just paying very, very close attention to the entire situation to make sure that that's not something that happens. >> president obama has said that u.s. military and coalition involvement is answering a call of a threatened people. is there a sense, christina, this is the start of a new doctrine from this administration? >> i think that that's the concern amongst some members of congress, but that's too early to know that at this point. you know, the white house is just paying very, very close attention to this situation, trying to assure people that this will be a very short situation and that there's not a lot to worry about. >> all right. some 24 hours in, we'll see. christina bellantoni, thanks so much. >> thanks, alex. at the top of the hour, we have the latest from libya on the military action taking place
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